GEOGRAPHY IN THE NEWS:
Volcanic eruptions have changed the course of human history many times across the millennia. New research finds that a volcanic eruption in the Aleutian Islands, 6000 miles from Italy, may have contributed to the end of the Roman Republic. "In recent years, geoscientists, historians and archaeologists have joined forces to investigate the societal impacts of large volcanic eruptions. They rely on an amalgam of records — including ice cores, historical chronicles and climate modeling — to pinpoint how volcanism affected civilizations ranging from the Roman Republic to Ptolemaic Egypt to pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. ... Dr. [Joseph] McConnell and his collaborators recently analyzed six ice cores drilled in the Arctic. In layers of ice corresponding to the early months of 43 B.C., they spotted large upticks in sulfur and, crucially, bits of material that were probably tephra. The timing caught the scientists’ attention. Researchers have previously hypothesized that an environmental trigger may have helped set in motion the crop failures, famines and social unrest that plagued the Mediterranean region at that time. ... There’s good evidence that the Northern Hemisphere was colder than normal around 43 B.C. Trees across Europe grew more slowly that year, and a pine forest in North America experienced an unusually early autumn freeze. Using climate models to simulate the impact of an Okmok [Aleutian volcano] eruption, Dr. McConnell and his collaborators estimated that parts of the Mediterranean, roughly 6,000 miles away, would have cooled by as much as 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit. 'It was bloody cold,' Dr. McConnell said. Rain patterns changed as well — some regions would have been drenched by 400 percent more precipitation than normal, the modeling revealed. ... These cold, wet conditions would have almost certainly decimated crops, Dr. McConnell and his colleagues said. Historical records compiled by Roman writers and philosophers note food shortages and famines. In 43 B.C., Mark Antony, the Roman military leader, and his army had to subsist on wild fruit, roots, bark and 'animals never tasted before,' the philosopher Plutarch wrote." www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/science/rome-caesar-volcano.html
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